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Educational Goods

Values, Evidence, and Decision-Making

We spend a lot of time arguing about how schools might be improved. But we rarely take a step back to ask what we as a society should be looking for from education—what exactly should those who make decisions be trying to achieve?
In Educational Goods, two philosophers and two social scientists address this very question. They begin by broadening the language for talking about educational policy: “educational goods” are the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that children develop for their own benefit and that of others; “childhood goods” are the valuable experiences and freedoms that make childhood a distinct phase of life. Balancing those, and understanding that not all of them can be measured through traditional methods, is a key first step. From there, they show how to think clearly about how those goods are distributed and propose a method for combining values and evidence to reach decisions. They conclude by showing the method in action, offering detailed accounts of how it might be applied in school finance, accountability, and choice. The result is a reimagining of our decision making about schools, one that will sharpen our thinking on familiar debates and push us toward better outcomes.

192 pages | 8 halftones, 4 line drawings | 6 x 9 | © 2018

Education: Education--Economics, Law, Politics, Philosophy of Education, Pre-School, Elementary and Secondary Education

Philosophy: Ethics, Philosophy of Society


“An ambitious effort that succeeds in providing a fundamentally new way to talk about and, by dint of that, think about policy choices in education. The high quality and intellectually diverse team of authors work hard to make what could be dense and complex points as clearly as possible.”

Jeffrey R. Henig, Teachers College, Columbia University

"This strong team of philosophers and social scientists chart a path toward improvement in education policy that falls between the too-narrow bean counting of  “No Child Left Behind” and its ilk, and the inspiring but often too-vague-to-be-useful rhetoric of ideals. The authors strive both to establish a general frame for such inquiry and to make a start on showing their own approach to filling in the details. A work that is imaginative, informative, and unfailingly constructive."

Michael S. McPherson, co-author of Lesson Plan: An Agenda for Change in American Higher Education

“Effective decision-making—whether educational or otherwise—requires not just weighing the evidence but also determining which evidence to privilege. This in turn requires making value judgments. This gifted team brings together insights from philosophy, political science, economics, public policy, and education to propose a framework for combining values and evidence for improved decision-making. Every education decision-maker—and every education researcher—would benefit from reading this book.”

David N. Figlio, School of Education and Social Policy, Northwestern University

Table of Contents

List of Figures
Preface and Acknowledgments


Part 1   Values
1          Educational Goods
2          Distributive Values and Independent Values
3          Achievement as an Educational Good

Part 2   Decision Making
4          Combining Values and Evidence
5          School Finance
6          School Accountability
7          School Autonomy and Parental Choice



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